Mark of an Angel
It’s partly spoiling the experience of watching this impressively executed French film to reveal that what begins as an engrossing character study transforms into a riveting domestic thriller. But to not make reference to the film’s seamless stitching together of different genres would be to criminally neglect the cinematic coup pulled off by co-writer and director Safy Nebbou. So, without giving too much away, the film begins by focusing on divorced mother Elsa (Catherine Frot, last seen in The Piano Tuner) as she juggles her dull job at a pharmacy with a trying custody battle for her son. A chance meeting with the younger sister of her son’s school-friend, however, convinces Elsa the girl is, in fact, the daughter she lost six years before, and Elsa begins to insinuate herself into the life of the girl’s mother, Claire (Sandrine Bonnaire).
Nebbou, who made his feature debut with 2004’s The Giraffe’s Neck (which also starred Bonnaire), but who comes from a theatre background, puts his stage experience to good use. Eliciting a pair of finely modulated performances from his talented leading ladies, he establishes two compelling mother figures who are both fiercely protective of their children, both real or imagined, which lays the groundwork for the thrills to come. These include two set-pieces, one at a ballet, another on an ice rink, that are the epitome of Hitchcockian suspense.
GFT, Glasgow & Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 22 May.